LeeAnn Matson-Thomason is a certified Hatha Level 2 teacher, completing an intensive study of asana, pranayama, and meditation designed for experienced teachers and students. Her teachers, Mark Uridel Sadani and Heather Kier encouraged her to further refine her personal practice and her teaching.
LeeAnn’s Hatha classes are inspired by Viniyoga and the teachings of Gary Kraftsow. She has had the wonderful opportunity to study with Gary and Mirka Kraftsow, Leslie Kaminoff, Donna Farhi, and Srivatsa Ramaswami, among others. She incorporates pranayama and variations of the traditional asanas into her classes to allow students to create different physical and meditative experiences for themselves.
LeeAnn‘s yoga story
Who I am now and who I was when I first began my yoga practice (while ultimately the same underlying person) is very different. I might describe myself today as a mother and wife who has a wonderful opportunity to share the teachings of yoga as I was taught, in the Vini Yoga tradition. And yes, I do teach yoga classes – but I do not consider myself by any means a yoga master. The more I learn about yoga, the less I feel I really know. I share what I have learned with others so they may experience yoga as a practice leading to the elimination of suffering.
Let me tell you about my first yoga experience. I was living in Monterrey, Ca. studying dance and theatre at the Monterrey Peninsula College in 1992. I had an amazing jazz teacher, Debbie, who told us one day “In our next class I am going to share some yoga with you. So dress in layers of clothes because your body temperature will change according to what we are doing.” I left class wondering what she was talking about. I asked a fellow dancer, “What is yoga?” Meredith’s response was something like “Uh, it’s just a relaxing way to stretch. No biggie.”
So I came to the next class in layers of clothes, full of wonder about what to expect. I was taken through a sequence of postures and poses that stretched my body in such a wonderful and gentle way. I felt as Meredith said, relaxed. In fact, I was so relaxed I felt like I could just stay in the last pose she called corpse pose, forever…funny name and how I felt I could stay in that state forever, right?
And so I experienced my first yoga class. Relaxed, refreshed and back to life I went. I left and really didn’t give it another thought. About once a month Debbie would share another nice way to stretch with us. And every time I felt so relaxed and yet ready to go in the same breath. Not ready to leave, but ready to move and do and take care of things. But I didn’t connect the feeling with yoga quite yet. I just knew I was doing some gentle stretching of the body, which for a dancer was great.
It is nearly 19 years from my first yoga experience and I’m still learning and taking it in, trying to not only practice these poses on the mat, but carrying the focus into my daily life to bring some balance and understanding to whatever life might throw in my direction.
I wanted to share this, not only to let you know that we all have our first experience with yoga, but also to remind myself that where I began and where I am now is so different. As a teacher, it is important to remember when someone starts classes, that sitting still, focusing and learning how to breath properly is not easy and not even on most people’s mind. We all come with different expectations, or without expectations, wondering what yoga is about. I had a teacher once tell me that there are two ways that yoga happens for people – those who find the physical practice easy to begin with, then yoga becomes more challenging as time goes by and those who find the physical practice difficult and find that yoga gets easier as time goes by. I think you can guess that I fall into the first category. Physically I could do anything my teachers asked but going deeper inside myself was a challenge.
I can’t wait to share with you how this practice has changed for me through the years and why I stuck with it and began to share these teachings. It has changed my life in so many ways, ultimately allowing me to discover some of the real me, not just the words that tell you I am a mother, wife and teacher.